Nationals drop series opener to Brewers (updated)

MILWAUKEE - An uncharacteristically erratic start by Gio Gonzalez was too much for the Nationals to overcome tonight in a series-opening 6-3 loss to the Brewers.

With Gonzalez surrendering five runs during six labored innings, the Nationals faced an uphill climb, one made even tougher with Milwaukee starter Zach Davies once again on his game. Davies, who shut out the Nats last month in D.C., went seven strong this time to lead his team to victory at home.

“Boy, he’s been tough on us,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Davies has been tough on us. The young man can pitch. You can see why he’s won 16 games now.”

Gonzalez has been a model of consistency all season and entered this outing with a 5-0 record and 1.09 ERA over his last six starts. But he produced only one 1-2-3 inning all night and never found a consistent groove.

Gio-Gonzalez-throwing-red-sidebar.jpgThe Nationals defense could have helped out a bit more, most notably in the bottom of the first when Matt Wieters couldn’t hang onto Daniel Murphy’s short-hop throw from shallow right field, allowing Hernán Pérez to score on a rare sacrifice fly caught by an infielder.

But Gonzalez didn’t help his cause, either. He twice gave up two-run hits immediately after issuing a walk. Jesús Aguilar’s bases-loaded single in the bottom of the third was only the 16th hit all season Gonzalez has surrendered in 112 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

A leadoff walk of Davies in the fifth might have been Gonzalez’s costliest mistake of the evening. Moments later, Jonathan Villar (who squared around to bunt one pitch earlier) poked a curveball over the right field wall for a two-run homer to give the Brewers a three-run cushion.

“I don’t know what he was doing ... that at-bat,” Gonzalez said. “Because he tried to push bunt, and then all of a sudden he gets a curveball that kind of backed up a little bit. But if we execute that curveball, it’s a different result.”

It was only the second time in 27 starts this season Gonzalez has allowed more than four runs. He surprisingly stayed on the mound through a long bottom of the sixth that included a visit from head athletic trainer Paul Lessard after he grimaced following a pitch, finally departing after ending the inning with his pitch count at 115.

“It was just a breaking ball that I kind of landed on it a little bit wrong on my right side,” Gonzalez said. “But I’m fine now. I saw some of the guys in there, and it was just a little tweak. I feel fine. I feel good. Nothing to worry about for the next start.”

The majority of the Nationals lineup had precious little success against Davies, but Trea Turner enjoyed a big night at the plate and on the bases. In his third game back from the disabled list, Turner went 3-for-4 with a bunt single, a double, a triple and a stolen base, twice using his legs to reach third base and ultimately score on Jayson Werth groundouts.

“He’s not predictable, hits his spots, doesn’t miss hardly ever, unless he probably wants to,” Turner said of Davies. “That was my first time facing him, but in and out, up, down, changes speeds. And that’s not easy. ... You got to be ready for everything, and I think that’s why he’s really effective.”

Despite the loss, the Nationals still saw their magic number to clinch a division title drop to 15 after the Marlins lost 3-2 to the Phillies.

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